Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Of oars and feet

The CBI has stuck it's oar into the university funding debate - or it's foot in it's mouth depending on your point of view - by saying that students should pay higher tuition fees and more interest on their loans.

Naturally this has drawn a storm of protest from a wide range of sources including the National Union of Students which criticised the report as "gross hypocrisy" from the "fat cats of the CBI", very few of whom ever paid a penny towards their own state funded university education.

This view is supported by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers which referred to the proposals as "arrogant and elitist".

However the report does have some support from groups which want to see further restrictions on access to higher education, particularly at university level. And while the report itself doesn't specifically call for this, it does call for the government's aim of having 50% of young people attend university to be abandoned, along with other measures which would have the same effect.

Also contained within the report is the 'suggestion' that universities should focus more on 'economically valuable' subjects such as science, technology, engineering, maths and languages.

The very areas which most of the CBI's membership steadfastly refuse to invest in, claiming they are "not economically viable".

With CBI's constant complaints about how difficult it is for companies to keep graduate staff once they've got enough experience to make their skills marketable, it's not difficult to see why the CBI would want to see students pushed deeper into debt.

As for the students themselves. Someone more cynical than myself might suggest that for many of them, their primary concern would be that higher costs will mean less money for beer and drugs.

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